EPA HFC Phaseout Status After SNAP Rule 20 Lawsuit

November 7, 2018 / by Elizabeth Ortlieb

Elizabeth Ortlieb

Let's do a quick rundown on the EPA SNAP Rule 20 lawsuit, which basically threw a wrench into the EPA HFC phaseout. 🔧

EPA HFC Phaseout Status After SNAP Rule 20 Lawsuit

So you’re probably wondering: Why is everyone still talking about SNAP Rule 20? 

Well, to put it in simplest terms, the EPA SNAP Rule 20 lawsuit basically threw a wrench🔧 into the EPA HFC phaseout. 

SNAP Rule 20 quote 1

It’s been a confusing 😕 mess of events ever since the Mexichem Fluor, Inc., v. EPA decision last August. 

We’re going to break it all down for you now to (hopefully) clear up any of your confusion. 🌥️ ➡️ ☀️

(Plus, we just unleashed a new guide of the most important developments to date—Check it out here.)

 

SNAP Rule 20 Explained

Under SNAP Rule 20, various HFCs and HFC-containing blends that were previously listed as acceptable ✅ were listed as unacceptable ❌ in various end-uses in the aerosols, foam blowing, and refrigeration and air conditioning sectors. 

This post focuses on end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors.

Specifically, SNAP Rule 20 affected retail food refrigeration end uses 🏪including

  • supermarket systems (new and retrofit);
  • remote condensing units (new and retrofit);
  • and stand-alone retail food refrigeration equipment (new and retrofit). 

SNAP Rule 20 quote

These are the HFC substitutes it found unacceptable  in retail food refrigeration end uses: 

 

SNAP Rule 20 and Retail Food Refrigeration End Uses

Supermarket Systems (Retrofit)

HFC Substitutes: R-404A, R-407B, R-421B, R-422A, R-422C, R-422D, R-428A, R-434A, R-507A

Decision: Unacceptable as of July 20, 2016

 

Supermarket Systems (New)

HFC Substitutes: HFC-227ea, R-404A, R-407B, R-421B, R-422A, R-422C, R-422D, R-428A, R-434A, R-507A

Decision: Unacceptable as of January 1, 2017

 

Remote Condensing Units (Retrofit)

HFC Substitutes: R-404A, R-407B, R-421B, R-422A, R-422C, R-422D, R- 428A, R-434A, R-507A

Decision: Unacceptable as of July 20, 2016 

 

Remote Condensing Units (New)

HFC Substitutes: HFC-227ea, R-404A, R-407B, R-421B, R-422A, R-422C, R-422D, R-428A, R-434A, R-507A

Decision: Unacceptable as of January 1, 2018

 

Stand-Alone Units (Retrofit)

HFC Substitutes: R-404A, R-507A

Decision: Unacceptable as of July 20, 2016

 

Stand-Alone Medium-Temperature Units with a compressor capacity below 2,200 Btu/hour and not containing a flooded evaporator (New)

HFC Substitutes: FOR12A, FOR12B, HFC-134a, HFC-227ea, KDD6, R- 125/290/134a/600a (55.0/1.0/42.5/1.5), R-404A, R- 407A, R-407B, R-407C, R-407F, R-410A, R-410B, R- 417A, R-421A, R-421B, R-422A, R-422B, R-422C, R- 422D, R-424A, R-426A, R-428A, R-434A, R-437A, R- 438A, R-507A, RS-24 (2002 formulation), RS-44 (2003 formulation), SP34E, THR-03

Decision: Unacceptable as of January 1, 2019

 

Stand-Alone Medium-Temperature Units with a compressor capacity equal to or greater than 2,200 Btu/hour and Stand-Alone Medium-Temperature Units containing a flooded evaporator (New)

HFC Substitutes: FOR12A, FOR12B, HFC-134a, HFC-227ea, KDD6, R-

125/290/134a/600a (55.0/1.0/42.5/1.5), R-404A, R- 407A, R-407B, R-407C, R-407F, R-410A, R-410B, R- 417A, R-421A, R-421B, R-422A, R-422B, R-422C, R- 422D, R-424A, R-426A, R-428A, R-434A, R-437A, R- 438A, R-507A, RS-24 (2002 formulation), RS-44 (2003 formulation), SP34E, THR-03.

Decision: Unacceptable as of January 1, 2020

 

Stand-Alone Low-Temperature Units (New)

HFC Substitutes: HFC-227ea, KDD6, R-125/290/134a/600a (55.0/1.0/42.5/1.5), R-404A, R-407A, R-407B, R-407C, R-407F, R-410A, R-410B, R-417A, R-421A, R-421B, R- 422A, R-422B, R-422C, R-422D, R-424A, R-428A, R- 434A, R-437A, R-438A, R-507A, RS-44 (2003 formulation)

Decision: Unacceptable as of January 1, 2020

 

In essence, this is what SNAP Rule 20 called for when it came to stationary HVAC/R applications. 

Please note: The information you see above is historical information only.

It is what SNAP Rule 20 called for prior to the court decision.

Indeed after the court case, these decisions of unacceptability have been dismissed. ‼️

Quote on EPA SNAP Rule 20 1 (3)

So, now, these HFCs are allowed ✅, which leads us to our next point: 

 

Why were the HFC unacceptable listings dismissed in SNAP Rule 20? 

On Aug. 8, 2017, the Mexichem Fluor, Inc., v. EPA decision dismissed the part of SNAP Rule 20 that banned HFCs in the various end uses. (This has become known as the SNAP Rule 20 lawsuit.)

The case ruled that the EPA did not possess authority under Section 612(c) to require the replacement of non-ozone-depleting substances.

It states, "In short, we vacate the 2015 Rule to the extent the Rule requires manufacturers to replace HFCs with a substitute substance."

So, it's a partial dismissal (vacatur)

Quote on EPA SNAP Rule 20 1 (5)

But it doesn't stop there. 

In fact, the case also states,

"EPA’s reliance on the statutory term 'replace' does not justify the 2015 Rule. But that is not necessarily the end of the matter.

EPA suggests that it may be able to require manufacturers to replace HFCs under an alternative theory. The question under that alternative theory is this:

May EPA retroactively conclude that a manufacturer’s past decision to 'replace' an ozone-depleting substance with HFCs is no longer lawful, even though the original replacement with HFCs was lawful at the time it was made?"

Importantly, it concludes: "We may not uphold the Rule based on the 'retroactive disapproval' theory ... Rather, we must remand to EPA."

It then explains that the EPA would have to address at least three issues if it "decides to pursue this 'retroactive disapproval' approach." 

 

What is that status of the EPA HFC Phaseout After the SNAP Rule 20 Lawsuit? 

After this court decision on SNAP Rule 20, the EPA HFC phaseout is muddy. 

It's important to note that SNAP Rule 20 is not the only SNAP regulation that listed HFCs as unacceptable.

We must not overlook SNAP Rule 21, which also listed certain HFC substitutes as unacceptable in cold storage warehouse (new), retail food refrigeration - refrigerated food processing and dispensing equipment (new), and household refrigerators and freezers (new).

This other SNAP Rule complicates this entire discussion on the status of the EPA HFC phaseout.

We're going to try and keep it as simple as possible for you.

So, here's what we do know (for now) ⬇️: 

 

1. SNAP Rule 20 has been partially dismissed. 

The keyword here is partially, and there is also the fact of the remand. The EPA is preparing to engage in rulemaking to address the court's remand of the Rule.

 

2. SNAP Rule 21 is still in effect but under litigation. While the SNAP Rule 20 lawsuit has been continuously talked about, SNAP Rule 21 (another EPA regulation on HFC prohibitions) has not been talked about much. It's still in effect but under litigation.

 

3. The EPA HFC phaseout is very much up in the air at this point. Yes, at the federal level, the EPA HFC phaseout is very much up in the air.

However, this does not mean that you should just throw all your cares to the wind when it comes to using high-GWP HFC refrigerants. Many states, including CaliforniaConnecticut, Maryland, and New York, have signaled that they may be introducing their own HFC initiatives.


Well, that concludes our post on the EPA HFC phaseout status after the SNAP Rule 20 lawsuit. 

Are you having trouble keeping up with all the activity around the HFC court decision on SNAP Rule 20? 

We've created a free simple rundown on the HFC court decision to give you an overlook of the most important developments since the August 2017 decision. 

New call-to-action

Check it out here

As always, thanks for joining. Please note: This is not legal advice.

Be sure to tune in next week for the latest HVAC/R insight.

--- If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out our other articles:

Proposed California Refrigerant Law to Ban HFCs in Some Refrigeration End-Uses

Phaseouts and Flammable Refrigerants: A Turning Point for Your Heating and Cooling Equipment

Topics: Refrigerant Compliance, Refrigerant Management

Elizabeth Ortlieb

Written by Elizabeth Ortlieb

With an extensive background in public affairs and communications, Elizabeth serves as the Policy & Content Manager at Trakref, where she tracks HVAC/R policy trends and provides updates to multi-level stakeholders. Email the author at eortlieb@trakref.com